Main bet: Xander Schauffele each way @ 23.01/22
In the eyes of many, beautiful and alluring Augusta National is golf’s ultimate horse-for-course layout.
It is therefore surprising given the limited number of players each year – only 89 players this time around – that we have witnessed 15 different winners in the last 16 editions.
Playing that angle this year doesn’t do much to narrow the list of serious contenders because 12 of the top 14 in the Betfair Sportsbook have never won the famous green jacket.
As usual, I started my series of Masters previews by taking a look at the 10 year trends. This year, I refined it by introducing a rating system who produced the following list based on a set of 11 statistical categories: age, world ranking, past appearances, best masters finish, weak masters round, defending champion, recent form, green jacket, recent major form, driving distance and strokes won around the Green.
87 Rory McIlroy
85 Justin Thomas
84 Alexander Schauele
82 Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith
78 Louis Oosthuizen
75 Dustin Johnson
72 Jon Rahm
71 Paul Casey
67 Jordan Spieth
the ideal candidate would be in their 30s, in the top 20 of the world rankings, would have played in at least three Masters, would have a top 10 in the event, would have shot a 67 or less at least once, and would not be the defending champion or a former Masters Winner. They would have a top 15 in a strokeplay event in March or April, post a top six in a major in one of the previous two seasons, place in the top 25 in Driving Distance and, finally, would have ranked in the top 25 for strokes won: Around the green.
McIlroy ticked all the boxes despite Twitter emphasizing its mental weaknesses at the Masters who never seem to have cleared up since taking a four-stroke lead in the final round in 2011, but crashed to a closing 80 and finished 10 behind.
However, I’m happy to have 18/1 Rory for me from this preview despite those concerns and his missed cut in Texas.
Does that mean I’m just going to Justin Thomas as my first bet here? I think he has a huge chance, but 12/1 is not a prize for a peek each way like this.
And so I come to the third player on this list, Xander Schauele. As of 1/22, he’s my number one choice.
He’s actually gone up a point since the Trends Preview was written after his Around The Green ranking jumped from 52nd to 49th despite not playing the Texas Open . This puts it tied for second with Thomas on 85pts.
To explain how he got to that score, Schauffele is 28, ranked world No. of his last start in strokeplay. , has a third and a fifth in the 2020/2021 majors, is 25th in driving distance and 49th around the greens.
Schauele is one of those who took the majors like a duck to water. He was tied for fifth in his very first (the 2017 US Open) and has now racked up nine top 10s in 18 appearances. Six of them are among the top five.
More precisely at the US Masters, it was co-finalist in his second appearance in 2019, tied for 17th in 2020 and tied for third Last year.
Three years ago he was tied for the lead leaving the 16th green before Tiger passed him and last time out he birdied four fours on the rotation from 12-15 to come within two of trailing leader Matsuyama before finding water at 16.
In other words, it is tasted the heat of battle on the back nine of a masters sunday. These experiences can only help him move forward.
Another obvious positive has to be his brilliant record in Georgia. In his last six starts there, he has finished in the top three five times. That includes the Californian’s second and third at Augusta and 3-1-2 form at the Tour Championship, an event he also won in 2017.
Technically he didn’t win the end of the 2020 season, so the ‘1’ refers to him shooting the low score of 265, three better than anyone else in the stroke handicap system.
If there is a reproach to Schauffele it is that he does not earn enough and that is a fair point to some extent.
But, given the importance he attached to it, winning Olympic gold last summer was a great achievement. And it’s hard to be overly critical of a guy who has such a superb track record at all four of golf’s biggest events.
In terms of being the next cab in line in line for the majors, Schauffele has to be very close to the front. And 22/1 with 10 seats one way seems a very playable price considering its 50% success rate in the top 10 majors.
Next Best: Daniel Berger one way to 41.040/1
The best bet I can see in this second price level (33 to 50) is Daniel Berger at 40/1.
Southern States players have a fine record in Augusta – think Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reid (all recent winners) – so the Floridian would fit that angle.
Berger was a promising 10th for his Masters debut in 2016 and followed with 27th and 32nd the following two years.
He didn’t qualify in 2019 and 2020, meaning he’s only played the event once since becoming the upgraded version we’ve seen over the past two seasons.
He marked his first Masters appearance in three years with a missed cut and was far down the PGA Championship pack (tied 75th). Corn in the last two majors of 2021, he finished tied for seventh at the US Open and tied for eighth at The Open Championship to suggest that he was finding a level of comfort in big events.
A two-time winner of the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic, Berger is showing strength in every Strokes Gained category this year, placing fourth in the overall list.
Breaking it down, it is 23rd for SG: Approach and ninth in SG: Around The Green and that obvious mastery of both could take him far to Augusta National where irons and short-game magic are needed.
Also first in Sand SavesBerger’s supporters won’t flinch when he finds a bunker and I also like his position as second in bogey avoidance. All the hype around Augusta centers around birdies and eagles and yet so often the winner has done the fewer errors. Schauele is seventh for Bogey Avoidance elsewhere.
In his last two strokeplay starts, Berger has been the Leader of the 54 holes at the Honda Classic before a disappointing final lap left him fourth and he backed that up with tied for 13th in the Players Championship. His work around the greens at both PGA National and Sawgrass was excellent.
Does he hit it far enough for a Masters winner? Well, Berger is higher on the driving distance charts than 2018 Augusta champion Patrick Reed and, like his fellow American, he has other tools and a certain audacity who can overcome without beating him kilometers.
Having reunited with Augusta last year after failing to qualify in 2020 (an oddity due to timing), Berger should feel more like one of the gang this time around and, at a much greater chance than the players. that he had the best in the last two majors, the 40/1 is a play.
Final bet: Robert MacIntyre each way @ 81.080/1
With 10 seats one way available, I want to find an outsider who can slip into the broadcast slots and Robert MacIntyre seems as good a candidate as any.
His biggest advantage is that he made his Augusta debut last year and finished tied for 12th despite shooting a 2-over opener.
Maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise considering he’s a left-handed.
Southpaws have a stellar recent record on the course with Phil Mickelson (three), Bubba Watson (two) and Mike Weir (one) sharing six wins between them over the past 20 years.
MacIntyre certainly felt the benefits of being left-handed last year and said mid-tournament: “Yeah, I prefer a place where the scores don’t go crazy, where you have to hit and it doesn’t become a putting competition.
“It’s exactly on my street. You have to shape the shots, you have to think. If you’re not in position, you have to think even more. i love golfand my game is in good shape for that.”
After intermediate rounds of 70-70 and a final of 72, he had done enough to crack the top-15 and automatically qualify for this year’s event.
Speaking at the time, the delighted Scotsman said: “I played some good golf last week, and I feel like my game suits this golf course. The way I play golf is the way this golf course wants you to golf. I’m just over the moon to finish the way I did.
“The first tee shot, the first hole of the first round, I was really nervous. Then I entered the golf tournament, Friday, Saturday, I was not nervous at all. Today I started to get pissed off because it meant so much.”
Having to hole a putt on 18 to earn its return is a great way to forming positive mental associations and MacIntyre’s game looks in good enough shape to give him another good run.
He finished tied for 13th and tied for ninth in both DP World Tour events in Ras al Khaimah and followed that up with an excellent Tied for 15th at the Genesis Invitationalshooting 67 at Riviera on Friday and Saturday.
After rubbing shoulders with the elite of the WGC-Dell Match Play (he beat Sergio Garcia 4&2 but lost to Collin Morikawa and Jason Kokrak), MacIntyre fired three shots of 69 at last week’s Valero Texas Open.
A Saturday 76 meant the Oban man had to settle for a 35th tie, but he came home in 4-under 32 Sunday to get a good start for the trip to Augusta.
The other big plus is that it’s pretty obvious that his tied for 12th place finish at last year’s Masters wasn’t just a one-time golden week.
As with Schauffele, MacIntyre immediately turned to the majors. He’s made the cut in the seven he’s played and that includes tied sixth (2019) and tied eighth (2021) in his two Open starts.
All in all, a top 10 is well within his capabilities.